It’s just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
With your hands on your hips
You bring your knees in tight
But it’s the pelvic thrust
That really drives you insane
I’m sure these lyrics are familiar to most of you, dear readers. With the surprising prevalence of The Rocky Horror Picture Show despite its cult status, even if one hasn’t watched the film, many of its (for lack of a better term) memes have stuck in the cultural consciousness. As a younger me, while watching this I wondered what the heck a dance had to do with anything, and honestly as an adult I still don’t know for sure–although I fully know that in this film, things don’t really have to make sense. It just comes out of nowhere. But thinking a little bit harder, maybe it wasn’t as out of place as I originally thought. After all, Rocky Horror isn’t the only piece of media utilizing the magic of dancing in the way it’s typically used: to signify a transformation.
When I was a teenager, a friend of mine suggested watching Princess Tutu. I briefly looked up images, and they gave me a typical shoujo vibe. I was very skeptical that I’d enjoy it, especially since it had to do with ballet and I had no interest in dance, but I finished it anyway since it was highly recommended. The anime started slow, but by the end I couldn’t wait to see the grand finale. Even with my lack of interest in ballet, it showed a surprising level of depth that I wasn’t expecting. The heroine focuses on how to deal with emotional distress, in the healthiest and most optimistic way possible. I found myself getting invested in each and every character and their well-being. Princess Tutu is a strong character who saves people without resorting to violence. As someone who focuses on character development, I was ecstatic to see that Princess Tutu and the main cast are given different roles than you’d expect, and the lessons they reflect real emotional challenges in life that people struggle with. It’s become a classic to me, and I can’t wait to share it with you and other people too!
I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I got the overwhelming urge to roll my eyes when I first saw the preview for Battle of the Year.
Part of my exasperation definitely comes from a seeming lack of originality. Going by the trailer, it seems the creators decided to place the script for Step Up into a blender with Miracle and Remember the Titans, then poured the contents into a Mighty Ducks mold in order to make this film. I mean, I don’t think I need to see this movie to give an effective rundown of the plot:
The best of the best (with egos to match) are assembled
Washed up, failed, or otherwise unlikely coach is assigned charge of the team (because after gathering the best of the best, it makes sense to have the worst of the worst lead them, obviously)
Said coach is a real hard ass and the team hates him
The “team” is comprised of hotheaded individuals working toward their own glory rather than being a unified group
Through hard work and time together, everyone learns respect and trust to make a true team
The climactic event comes: Team performs with more heart than anyone and wins in one way or another. If they don’t actually take the title they’ll still learn their lessons and grow as people, like in Bring it On, or they’ll be the crowd favorite, like in Cool Runnings.
Really though, I don’t mind formulaic movies all that much. They can still be good and I’m sure none of the movies I used to illustrate my points were the first to employ these plot elements. So what is rubbing me so wrong about Battle of the Year, then? I think it’s the way dance itself seems to be treated.
As I mentioned before, Flashdance the musical had its US premiere in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, so of course I went to see it. I didn’t get to see it on opening night which would have been pretty cool, but I did manage to get tickets to a Friday night performance of the nearly sold-out run.
When I posted about the premiere before I mentioned that I was concerned with how the steel mill workers would be portrayed in the musical. I was worried they may be tokenized or exaggerated to fit musical theatre tropes and that if that happened Pittsburgh audiences would be far from pleased. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened. Unfortunately, that was because the mill workers had very little to do with the story.
Tamara Rojo seems to have made it her mission to change the perception of beauty in the Ballet world and thereby make a safer environment in which dancers can carry out their profession. I think this is wonderful but even in reading the article and seeing what an apparently full-figured woman looks like in the ballet world it’s clear that what is considered thin by an audience’s perspective and what is considered thin by a dancer’s perspective are two vastly different conceptions.
The article mentions that Rojo has been compared to a famous dancer, Dame Margot Fonteyn:
It is in these images that we can really see the kind of pressure these dancers are under. Think about it, these two women are examples of “heavy” dancers. Imagine how great the pressure is to be thin when a woman of this size is the standard for overweight.
Dancing ballet is some of the most physically strenuous activity imaginable and the fact that dancers, particularly women but of course the men are affected too, have to go to such dramatic lengths to have what many consider to be the “right” body for the art form is not just sad, it’s dangerous.
I applaud Miss Rojo for her advocacy. I truly hope that she can help create a Ballet world where eating disorders are not the norm; where I won’t see status updates from my dancer friends along the lines of “Photoshoot coming up; no more eating for the next week”; and where young boys and girls can go to the Ballet and be inspired by powerful, healthy dancers rather than thin, frail waifs.